Matchday Recap: FC Cincinnati at Atlanta United
In a lot of ways week two for FC Cincinnati picked up right where week one left off. FC Cincinnati put together a valiant losing on the effort on the road against one of the best teams in the league. Finishing 2-1 with two goals from players that have lost a lot of hype in their short carers in Ezequiel Barco Emerson Hyndman for Atlanta and newly arrived Designated Player Yuya Kubo providing one for FC Cincinnati.
The lineup for FC Cincinnati was identical to week one's with the two changes of Joe Gyau for Adrien Regattin, who picked up a slight hamstring injury during the week, and Jurgen Locadia in for Brandon Vazquez. While it should be noted that Atlanta United was missing their talisman Josef Martinez, FC Cincinnati was able to hold off an attack that included a former South American Player of the year, U-20 World Cup standout and one of MLS's most expensive players, and Adam Jahn. The defensive struggles put on display by FCC in New York were largely absent in Atlanta. While Atlanta still attacked down the wings, it wasn't the primary focus with their attacking focus being split 38% on the left side, 38% on the right side, and 24% down the middle. Compare that to New York Red Bulls who sent 44% of their attack down the left side and 32% down the right side.
One of the key defensive lapses that New York was able to exploit was the inability to cover for outside backs on defense. In FCC's 4-3-3 the outside backs are being used as the primary width option for the midfield in the attack. Because they are often pushed up, they left a hole behind them in the defensive line. Against Atlanta, there was much more of an effort to put Frankie Amaya or Haris Medujanin in that spot. And it paid off. Unlocking Mathieu Deplagne and Greg Garza let them contribute to an evolving attack that has looked better and better over the course of two matches. Garza led the team with crosses (6) and Deplange led the team with successful dribbles (2).
Both goals for Atlanta came against the run of play where Cincinnati was dictating the tempo of the match in the ten minutes or so leading up to both goals. In the first goal Pity Martinez was able to get to the end line and cut a pass back to a streaking Barco who blew past the defense. Deplange was trailing Barco and unable to block the inch perfect pass that found his feet. It could be argued that Richey could have stopped that pass, something he had done just that on an offensive move by Atlanta just minutes earlier. The lack of tracking on an offensive threat crashing the goal is really where the blame lies in the first goal.
For the second, it's hard to see a goal scored on a keeper's near post and not think it's the keeper's fault. Hyndman, who Tommy G was maybe a little too happy to point out scored the game winning goal, made Mikel van der Werff look like a traffic cone playing defense and slotted in his second goal in as many games. While in the pervious match the issue was getting bodies behind the ball on the wings, this wasn't quite the case. The defense was set, they were just unable to make a defensive play.
On a much brighter side, Yuya Kubo looked like a DP winger in this match. He didn't stay on the wings, often found in the middle of the attacking third after an exchange with Garza or Cruz, and leading to scoring opportunities. Kubo's goal was a beautiful knuckleball that kept a flatfooted Brad Guzan from even making an attempt on the ball. Kubo's long range effort was one of many on the night with Frankie and Amaya and Jurgen Locadia both having near misses from outside of the box. FC Cincinnati actually led Atlanta in shots, but trailed in Expected Goals (xG) with Atlanta winning that battle 1.90 to 0.55. With the match ending 2-1, the expected goals were pretty spot on.
The slow pace of the center backs is something that continues to be an overall issue. A midfielder who is able to drop in between them might solve some of these problems, something that Medunjanin was able to do a bit this match. Despite Medunjanin's lack of defensive prowess being a storyline in the offseason, he tied for the most number of interceptions with two.
Frankie Amaya was given slightly more defensive responsibilities and he performed admirably. His intelligence on the field is becoming more and more apparent and has the real potential to be a star in this league, or one in Europe.
Jurgen Locadia was pretty well contained this match. He did lead the match overall with four shots, but the game plan from Atlanta was to contain him. This opened up space for Kubo in particular and Deplange to an extent. Last year there was so little attacking talent up top that when the striker struggled, there wasn't much Cincinnati could offer up other than pathetic efforts on the wings. Locadia often dropped deep into the midfield to get the ball off of midfielders, an issue that will probably be solved when Siem de Jong joins the lineup.
FC Cincinnati's next match is the home opener on March 14th against DC United .